Grow what you love. Grow it for those you love. Watch the love grow. Nevin and Linda Sweeney have created a suburban oasis and share it with their community. Nevin and Linda started out with a small suburban lot, on the hot plains of western Sydney.
With a focus on making their home and community more liveable, Nevin and Linda used Permaculture design to capture water, intensively grow veggies and shade the home and street. Here are some of the tricks Nevin used.
Oasis Loves Water
Water systems support the plants throughout the changing seasons. Nevin “put in about 18 to 19 000 litres worth of rainwater tanks and so part of the water system is making sure that you have efficient means of delivering it. For the annuals we have Ollas and for the perennials we have deep pipe waterers. And these both work remarkably well.
The second part of the water system is the waster water. “So, the shower or bath water goes into our Banana Circle which means the banana circle has gone berserk! It’s at the back of the house so not only has it provided bananas, it has also provided shade on the back of the house. “
“I set up a diversion valve from the house. so when we do the washing up the wash water is diverted into my constructed wetland. And is then used to water trees”. Also, Nevin put together a wide tube that sat on top of the deep pipe watering system. “So, when I’m peeling the veggies and doing the rinsing, the water goes into a bucket. Then, I pour that bucket through the tube, straight down into the ground. I can do this any time of the day. Because that water is going straight underground. There’s no losses, no evaporation at all.”
Design is Key
“This is stuff that without my exposure to permaculture
I wouldn’t have had a clue about.” Nevin Sweeney
Outside the Oasis It’s Getting Hotter
The area around Nevin and Linda gets hot. In fact, in 2020 it was the hottest place on the planet. The temperature soared near 50 degrees. [120 Farenheit] Nevin says “it’s staying hotter for longer and the the seasons are changing.”
“What I found was I had a lot of difficulty growing the vegetables that I was used to growing. and so to get around that I covered most of the veggie growing area there are some things that don’t grow well under 50 shade cloth but most do. Although I am very very stubborn, sometimes stuff doesn’t work. Citrus works great but apples don’t. But there’s a lot of stuff (ie sweet potato) that grows really really well.
Part of this success is from improved microclimates, part of that is finding the stuff that you like to eat that actually grows. Years ago, Nevin was keen to try some climbing beans. “I’m not a huge fan of beans but the family likes them. And I eat them because I grow them and um I grew them up the side of the tanks and it worked really really well. And I tried to feed them the kids they went nuts saying “not eating that – don’t like them”. And so I went back to growing the shorter dwarf beans. And we’ve been growing that way ever since.
Grow what you love
So, it doesn’t matter what grows well at your place you – if don’t eat it – there’s not a lot of point in growing it. So, it’s a case of combining what you like to eat and what grows well.
If you grow your own Chokos (Chayote) you can harvest them when they’re small. And then, they’re amazing in a stir fry. They’re crunchy and nutty. And you can add the choko tendrils to the stir fry. Just like Vietnamese cooking.
“Actually, we can produce enough food to feed ourselves comparatively easily if we were prepared to put up with a restricted diet.”Nevin Sweeney
Chickens Dig It then Retire
Nevin says “In terms of Veggie patches we have 14 veggie patches. And of course, once I learned about chook tractors… I mean they’re an amazing piece of machinery! They do the digging, they do the fertilizing, you get eggs and you get chooks (chickens). Because chooks are fun!
The Cycle Starts With Seedlings
We grow our own seedlings. We plant into a seedling punnet and then into newspaper pots and then into the ground. And that happens all year round. So, that it didn’t matter what time you came to see us here we would have something growing we would have something that’s going off. We’d have something that’s coming up. We’d have the chooks on one part, and areas ready for the chooks. I’ve got to tell you we don’t eat our chooks.
We have a retirement village which is in shade which I keep filled with straw and the chooks there dig that over and turn that into mulch.
Tried and Tested Process
I’ve been using this process for 16 years. Okay, I’ve added a bit of rock dust, a bit of liquid manure and a bit of compost. But for the most part our fertility has been maintained by the chooks”